SOCCER | LALIGA
Fear of LaLiga's big three a thing of the past
Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atlético Madrid have been dropping points at home and against clubs in the mid-to-lower sections of the table.
LaLiga’s big three are no longer seen as invincible. A few seasons ago it would have been deemed a heroic feat to take points off Real Madrid, Barcelona or Atlético, but it has now become the norm.
With a third of the season already completed, none of the big three currently lead the LaLiga table, with Real Sociedad in first place as things stand. The Basque club holds a one-point lead over Madrid (although with one more game played), Atlético are in fourth but closer to the Europa League than the top of the table, while struggling Barcelona find themselves closer to relegation (6 points) than the title (11 points).
Barca, Real and Atléti droppig points
The three big boys are not so scary anymore and evidence of this is the points that have been dropped. Barcelona have dropped 19 points, two points more than what they have picked up (17); Atlético has dropped 13 points and Madrid, 9 points. It becomes even more evident when compared to the 100-point league title wins achieved by Real Madrid in 2012 and Barcelona in 2013, when both dropped just 14 points over the entire season -- something that seems unthinkable now.
More evidence is the fact that most of the dropped points have been conceded against clubs in mid-to-lower sections of the table. Real Madrid have lost against Espanyol (11th) and tied against Levante (19th), Villarreal (12th) and Osasuna (7th). Atlético have lost to Alavés (14th) and drawn against Villarreal (12th), Athletic (8th), Levante (19th), Valencia (10th) and Real Sociedad (1st). Meanwhile, Barcelona has dropped points against teams from both the lower-to-middle zone (they drew against Granada, 17th; Cádiz, 16th; Alavés, 14th; and Celta, 15th) and from the upper zone (they lost to Real Madrid, 2nd; Atlético, 4th; and Rayo, 6th; and drew against Athletic, 8th).
Another sign that the big three’s dominance has been significantly weakened are the points that they have let slip at home, just at a time when fans are filling the stands again and there is no excuse regarding empty stadiums with no home support.
Barcelona have drawn twice and lost once at the Camp Nou this season; Atlético have amassed three draws at the Wanda Metropolitano and Madrid have tied two games at the Bernabéu (not to mention their 2-1 defeat at the hands of Moldovan minnows Sheriff in the Champions League). With the way things are going, the points projection at the end of the season is 85-86 for Ancelotti's men; 72-73 points for Simeone’s side and 57 points for Xavi’s.
The decline of the greats has also coincided with the rise of some lower-level clubs. For the second year in a row, Real Socieded have started by contesting for the lead and, numbers-wise, find themselves in a similar position to the 2002-03 campaign when they finished runners-up. There are also teams like Rayo Vallecano, who have been enjoying the benefits of the Falcao effect. Recently promoted from the Segunda División, Rayo are sitting pretty in sixth place with 20 points.
Real Betis under Manuel Pellegrini have taken off this season and are in fifth. There are other clubs like Osasuna (seventh), who have had a great start to the season and are fighting in the upper zone. Many say that all these teams will drop down as the season goes on, but the cushion of points they have already obtained will give them the peace of mind as they set their sights higher.